Stretches & Tips
Flu Shot!

This week, for the first time ever, I got a flu shot! Last summer, I read an article that stated flu shots could reduce the severity of COVID infections. Last winter, we were all still staying away from each other and wearing masks everywhere, so I didn't think I needed to get a flu shot. This winter, though, I'm seeing friends and family, and things are opening up a bit, so I thought it might be a good idea. I did a little more research, and I found some extremely fascinating information for both our COVID present and the future.

Essentially, we have two types of immunity to viruses: Innate and secondary. The innate response is made mostly of antibodies and interferon, which we can think of as our bodies first defenses. They're the reason someone else in your house may get sick, but you may not. Your body may have had enough previous antibodies and/or produced enough interferon to fight the infection. They're also the reason that if you get sick, then someone else in your house gets sick, they likely won't pass it back to you a second time; your body has developed fresh antibodies to fight that particular virus strain. This is also the reason COVID booster shots are a big deal right now - if your body has enough antibodies, you likely won't get sick in the first place. Secondary immunity is when your body becomes infected, fights it off, then creates T-cells and B-cells that have a longer memory than antibodies. This is why, for example, we'll only get chickenpox once. (See: Fundamentals of Vaccine Immunology; Immunological memory)

Seasonal vaccines, like that for the flu, even if not formulated specifically for a particular virus, help activate the innate immune system and can provide protection against other pathogens. (See: Immunogenicity of Influenza Vaccines: Evidence for Differential Effect of Secondary Vaccination on Humoral and Cellular Immunity)

How does this relate to us? First, mRNA technology is truly revolutionary. The refrain since 2020 has been that the technology is too new, but really the antecedents go back about 30 years. Now that the formulae have been unlocked, they can be applied in myriad ways. (See: How mRNA is transforming the way we treat illnesses from flu to cancer; COVID-19 vaccines: modes of immune activation and future challenges)

Second, seasonal vaccines that help the innate immune system could be used to help alleviate future pandemics. (See: Old vaccines for new infections: Exploiting innate immunity to control COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics)

My takeaway from those articles? I used to think that flu shots were just for people who ACTUALLY got the flu (which I haven't had since I was like 6) or for very old individuals who might be at risk of hospitalization from flu or pneumonia.

But seasonal vaccination has actually been proven to help our immune systems generally, in addition to possibly helping us alleviate future significant virus disruption. And the needle was really small, my arm barely hurt, and I had no other reactions. I felt completely 100%. So let's all get shot - for science!


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Westport, CT